As Representatives set February for assets declaration, publication 

By  Jerromie S. Walters

Consistent with the legal mandate to declare their assets, members of the 55th National Legislature of the House of Representatives have agreed, authorizing the House’s Chief Clerk, to publish the assets declared by all members within a period of one month.

Members of the House of Representatives, are required to obtain the asset declaration document from the Chief Clerk’s Office to fill in and submit. The plenary also granted, that the assets of individual lawmakers declared, be published into at least three local dailies exactly one month following the submission.

Plenary took the decision during its Thursday, January 18, 2024, during the 3rd Day sitting of the 1st Quarter of the 1st Session of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Liberia, on Capitol Hill. The legislators, through autonomous votes, agreed to declare and publish their assets hopefully next month. It comes following a motion from Nimba County District #4 Representative Musa Hassan Bility.

Part 10.1 of the National Code of Conduct for all Public Officials and Employees of the Government of the Republic of Liberia captioned: Declaration of Assets and Performance Bonds provides that “Every Public Official and Employee of Government involved in making decisions affecting contracting, tendering or procurement, and issuance of licenses of various types shall sign performance or financial bonds and shall in addition declare his/her income, assets, and liabilities prior to taking office and thereafter.”

The latest decision by the House of Representatives is in fulfilment of the code of conduct and promoting transparency and accountability in Government. Like many of the lawmakers, Montserrado County District #5 Representative Priscilla Cooper embraced the need for timely assets declaration. This is because she believes they who are new lawmakers, have had significant investment outside of politics, and they are skeptical about being accused of embezzlement or using their offices to gain wealth in a few years to come.

As the female lawmaker rallied her colleagues to declare their assets in the soonest possible time, they concurred and concluded to do so a month from now.

The use of ‘asset declaration’/wealth disclosure is a powerful preventive tool to help public officials avoid unwarranted accusations of conflicts of interest and illicit wealth accumulation. It is also used to increase the confidence level of the general public in their leaders and those occupying positions that are prone to conflict of interest and the use of discretionary power. 

In fulfillment of the Article 90(c) mandate of the 1986 Constitution of the Republic of Liberia, June 20, 2014, “ACT OF LEGISLATURE PRESCRIBING A NATIONAL CODE OF CONDUCT FOR ALL PUBLIC OFFICIALS AND EMPLOYEES OF THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF LIBERIA” was enacted. 

The National Code of Conduct, in Part 10, provides for the Declaration and Registration of Personal Interests, Assets, and Performance/Financial Bonds by all public officials and employees of the government. The NCoC specifically states under 10.2 Repository and Contents of Declaration, inter alia, “…All such declarations shall be accessible to both the public employer and the general public upon court order; as well as to the Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) for investigative purposes. …”. Hence, the ongoing Asset Declaration and Verification exercises initiated by the LACC are in fulfillment of her constitutional duties to ensure accountability and transparency in public governance.

Asset declaration by public officials and employees of the government forms the basis for engaging with declarants. Whereas the verification process is a process of corroborating items listed against actuality. Indications of the preponderance of discrepancies and cloudiness of declarations may warrant administrative punishment or gravitate to full-scale investigation and subsequent prosecution, as the case may be, under Part 10.3 Sanctions for False Declaration of the NCoC and PART IV – POWERS OF THE COMMISSION of the LACC Act.

The Liberia Anti-Corruption Commission (LACC) was established by an Act of Legislature on August 28, 2008, with the mandate to investigate and prosecute acts of corruption, as well as educate the public about the ills of corruption and the benefits of its eradication.

At the same time, House Speaker, Cllr. J. Fonati Koffa has announced the appointment of two crucial adhoc committees for the 55th Legislature: They are, committees on Inauguration and Administration.

The Committee on Inauguration is chaired by Hon. Richard Nagbe Koon, the Committee on Inauguration is tasked with collaborating closely with the joint transitional inaugural team from the executive branch to ensure the seamless execution of a successful inauguration program on the grounds of the Capitol on Monday January 22, 2024.

The committee’s responsibilities extend to coordinating various aspects of the inaugural proceedings, aligning with the joint transitional inaugural team, and contributing to the overall success of this significant event. Those on the Committee on Inauguration are: Representative Richard Nagbe Koon (Chairman), Representative Moima Briggs-Mensah (Co-Chair), Representative Samuel Enders (Member), RepresentativeEmmanuel Dahn (Member), Representative Julie F. Wiah (Member), among others.

Committee on Administration: Led by Hon. J. Marvin Cole, the Committee on Administration is entrusted with finding suitable offices for newly elected lawmakers and managing other administrative matters crucial to the smooth functioning of the legislative body. This committee plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the logistical and administrative needs of the legislators are met efficiently.

Those on the Committee on Administration are: RepresentativeJ. Marvin Cole (Chairman), Representative P. Mike Jurry (Co-Chair), Representative Priscilla Cooper (Member), Representative Bintu Massalley (Member) and RepresentativeAustin Blidi Taylor

The term of the adhoc committees according to House Speaker Koffa will conclude on January 23, 2024. At that time, the Speaker will appoint statutory and other standing committees to continue the essential work of the 55th legislature. The Speaker expresses confidence in the capabilities and dedication of the appointed committee members, trusting that they will contribute significantly to the success of the inauguration and the smooth administration of the legislative process.

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